Energy & Environment

Dems call for probe of company after Alabama pipeline blast


A group of House Democrats on Wednesday urged federal officials to investigate the company that owns an Alabama pipeline that exploded this week. 

The Democrats —  Energy and Commerce Committee ranking member Frank Pallone (NJ), Transportation Committee ranking member Peter DeFazio (Ore.) and three subcommittee ranking members — said the Department of Transportation should probe the Colonial Pipeline Company after a pipeline it owns caught fire and exploded in Shelby County, Alabama. 

{mosads}The Monday incident killed one person and sent five others to the hospital. The explosion — coupled with a spill and a supply disruption two months ago — warrants an investigation, the members wrote in a letter to Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.

“This is an unacceptable situation, and we are concerned that the number, frequency and severity of significant incidents on Colonial’s system over the past five years could be symptomatic of severe underlying problems with the system and the company’s management of that system,” the members wrote. 

Colonial’s Shelby County pipeline caught fire and exploded shortly before 3:00 p.m. on Monday. The company said on Wednesday that the fire has “reduced significantly” over the last day and is no longer a hazard to the public. 

Nine contracted workers were at the pipeline site during the blast. One died, five went to the hospital and four remain hospitalized, the company reported in a Wednesday afternoon update.

Colonial said there is “no observable impacts” from the blast on waterways or drainage paths. The company said it hopes to begin work toward bringing the pipeline back online as soon as the fire is extinguished. 

In a statement on the letter, a Colonial Pipeline spokesman said the company’s focus is on the safety of the public and its workers, but that it is also cooperating with federal investigations into the explosion. 

“When incidents do occur, we investigate and determine the cause alongside government regulators, and take corrective actions based on lessons learned to minimize the likelihood of similar events happening again in the future,” the spokesman said.

—Updated at 9:31 a.m. Thursday.

Tags Alabama Anthony Foxx Colonial Pipeline Company pipelines

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